Path-dependent Foundation of Global Design-driven Outdoor Trade in the Northwest of England
Mary B Rose, Terence Love, Mike Parsons


This article explores path dependency in the design-based outdoor clothing and equipment sector in the northwest of the United Kingdom in the 1960s. The industry developed a strong export market and remains strong internationally. The article offers several key insights that promise to transform our understanding of the improvements that have taken place in design practice in some industries. In particular, the article focuses on the social, economic and technological factors that shaped the potential for successful design and manufacturing in the outdoor clothing and equipment sector in a region suffering from social and economic collapse. It also examines the role of users as designers and business founders.
The region this article examines was a vital centre of the Industrial Revolution. The article shows that skills and knowledge originating in the Industrial Revolution have been vitally important to the development of today’s design-driven industries. The cases presented here involve internationally competitive mountaineering equipment firms. Mountaineering clothing and equipment design was originally based on function and lead-user innovation. Innovative functional products emerged when firms with knowledge and technology originating in the Industrial Revolution combined their skills with lead-user sporting expertise to generate a user-driven design process. One core finding of this study is that fundamental changes have occurred in the relationship between manufacturers and customers that are vital to design success today. This marks a departure from past practice.

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